On Sunday May 26, the Pleasant Valley community will once again gather at St. Matthew’s United Church of Christ at 1427 Pleasant Valley Road at 1:45 in the afternoon for the annual Pleasant Valley Community Memorial Day service.
From the church, townsfolk, accompanied by the Wm. F. Myers and Sons Band will be escorted by the Pleasant Valley Community Fire Company for the half-mile walk to the Pleasant Valley Cemetery — where many members of my family are buried.
It is tradition that the walkers carry flowers and flags to place on the graves of the veterans from the surrounding community buried in the cemetery. It is another tradition that Pleasant Valley observes Memorial Day on Sunday – the day before the national observances.
In an article in the Carroll County Times on May 25, 2008, Carrie Ann Knauer reported, “As best anyone can estimate, 182 Carroll countians have lost their lives in the armed services during conflicts since 1917,” according to historian Jay Graybeal who researched the statistic when he was the director of the Historical Society of Carroll County.
According to research, by Pleasant Valley historian Mavis Starner, retrieved at the May 27, 2018 Memorial Day ceremonies, “Today we honor 123 veterans buried here in our Pleasant Valley Cemetery. … One served in the Napoleonic Wars, five served in the Civil War, one in the Spanish- American War, 14 in WW I, 74 in WW II, nine in the Korean Conflict, for in Vietnam, and one in Desert Storm.”
Various media accounts suggest that the ceremonies in Pleasant Valley began right after World War 1, however some oral traditions suggest that the services really began in the late-1800s.
According to research by local historian Joe Getty, the earliest known reference is found in a 1918 article written in a local Westminster newspaper. Then it was the children from the local school who carried “flags” — as in Iris flowers, to decorate the graves, according to Angela Bowersox, who has helped organize the ceremonies for many years. Now the walkers carry American flags which are then placed at the pre-marked graves of the known veterans.
Past speakers have included Commissioner Stephen Wantz in 2014, this reporter, Kevin Dayhoff, 2015, Carroll County Sheriff Jim DeWees in 2016 and Carroll County State’s Attorney Brian DeLeonardo in 2017.
My writing colleague at the newspaper, the late Hoby Wolf, spoke on May 27, 2001.
Judge Charles Harrison served as an armed helicopter pilot in Vietnam. After his tour of duty in Vietnam, Capt. Harrison resigned his military commission in 1971 and joined the FBI. Harrison spoke on May 27, 2018.
The late Carroll County State’s Attorney Jerry Barnes, whose service on the Ho Chi Minh trail in Vietnam is the stuff of legend to this day, delivered the keynote address on May 29, 2005.
Senator and later judge, Ray Beck, a fellow Marine, also spoke on this hallowed ground on May 26, 1985 — as did Commander Tom Hiltz in 2003 and SFC Russell Myers, Commander of the American Legion, in Westminster, who spoke in 2006.
According to Bowersox, this year’s speaker will be Libby Fuss who will discuss her book, “A Faithful Soldier Writes Home,” published in April 2015.
According to information provided by Bowersox, “When Libby Fuss's 90-year-old mother moved in with her and her husband, she brought along an old suitcase which her mother said she wasn't ready to look at.
“After her mother died, Libby would find letters inside written by her Dad, Lester Plume, to her mother during World War II. His letters gave a firsthand account of what it was like during the war on the front lines. ‘A Faithful Soldier Writes Home’ is based on these letters. Libby will bring the suitcase and her Dad's medals to display. She will probably wear a nurse's uniform from the 1940s and/or a nurse's cape.”
According to a lengthy Jan. 29, 2016 Times article by Lois Szymanski, “Westminster author shares father's World War II stories,” Fuss “said her dad hadn't talked much about his service. … She knew he had been awarded a Purple Heart award and the Bronze Star Medal twice. One actual medal is awarded for the Bronze Star, with the second denoted by an oak leaf cluster on the ribbon of the medal, but her dad's Bronze Star also had a V on it — for an individual act of valor.
When Libby Fuss moved her 90-year-old mother, Ruth Plume, into her home in 2006, her mom brought along an old suitcase. Sometime later, Fuss would find a legacy of letters inside, written by her father, Lester Plume, during World War II. Those letters would propel the Westminster resident to write her first book.
“In one of the letters he described rescuing these soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge. There was a foot of snow in Belgium in the winter, and many soldiers had been injured. ‘There weren't enough stretchers to get them off the hill and to safety,’ she said, explaining how her father had helped carry soldiers down the hill while under fire, even though shrapnel had penetrated his knee.
“The Carroll County Public Library hosted four events to introduce the book — at the Taneytown branch library, Carroll Lutheran Village, the Finksburg branch library, and Integrace Fairhaven in Sykesville. Lynn Wheeler, Carroll County Public Library executive director, said the book and Fuss' presentations were well received.”
Many are eagerly looking forward to Fuss’ presentation at 2 p.m. at the Pleasant Valley Cemetery, 1900 Pleasant Valley Road South, Westminster, on Sunday.
Times correspondent Kevin Dayhoff served in the Marine Corps reserves 1971-1973 and has written about Memorial Day and the Pleasant Valley ceremonies for many years. Portions of this article have been previously published.